Calm Your Mind with Meditation
With the growing popularity of yoga and meditation in the Western world, there has been an increased body of scientific research looking into these practices. There is great support for yoga and meditation as efficacious complementary treatments for hypertension, diabetes, cancer, cholesterol regulation, alcoholism, anxiety disorders, pain control, and obesity (Taylor, 1997). For example, researchers at Harvard Medical School have used MRI technology to monitor brain activity while people meditate. They found that the same areas of the brain that are activated by stress were also activated during meditation. This finding followed with the conclusion that if one could modulate these functions in the brain, the likelihood of stress related conditions, such as heart disease and anxiety, may decrease. In fact, studies show that it only takes about 10 minutes a day of meditation to have beneficial effects (Barbor, 2001). So start meditating today! And what better time to start regulating your stress levels more effectively than the holiday season!
How To Do It!
Meditation Wonderfully Powerfully & Beautifully Simple
Some may be asking, “What is meditation and how does one do it? How do I even get started?” Meditation is the act of inward contemplation; however, this can take many different forms depending on what school of thought one comes from. A common type of meditation in the Western world is called Vipassana, also known as insight meditation. The focus of Vipassana is trying to stay in the present as much as possible. However, even within Vipassana meditation there are different techniques that one can try. Here is a common technique that beginners can try for about 10 minutes a day.
1. Find a comfortable sitting position where you can sit without interruption for about 10 minutes. Set a timer so that you do not need to be bothered with watching the clock.
2. Make sure you are wearing loose and comfortable clothing and remove your shoes for comfort.
3. Sit comfortably in a chair with your feet planted on the ground, your spine straight, your sit bones rooted firmly in the chair, and your palms face up on your lap with the left palm under the right. Try not to let your back touch the chair in order to avoid slouching.
4. Close your eyes.
5. Focus on the natural movement of your breath. As you breathe in, your abdomen expands, and as you breathe out, it contracts. Focus your attention to this movement and simply follow it.
6. Do not attach any thoughts or judgments, just attend to the movement of the abdomen and your breath, and stay in the present moment.
7. If you find yourself thinking about something else and then you realize you’re doing this, just say to yourself “thinking” and refocus towards your breath and abdomen once again. Do not judge yourself for having these thoughts of past or future but rather watch them leave your mind just as easily as they came in, floating away.
8. If you are physically uncomfortable, quietly and with as little movement possible reposition yourself.
9. After your ten minutes are up, take your time to slowly open your eyes and begin to make small movements before getting up and continuing your day.
10. Over time, see if you can increase your meditation practice to longer periods of time.
During the holiday season, you may want to practice meditating before attending a big event or party, or seeing family members who you may not see very often. This can be done in addition to making time to meditate first thing in the morning or in the evening. The more often you practice, the greater the benefits will be, as the positive effects are cumulative.
Meditation may be difficult for some people and can actually contribute to anxiety for some before it begins relieving it. If you feel any intense emotions that are intolerable, you should not continue with meditation and seek the advice of a trained mental health professional. Sometimes it is also helpful to be introduced to meditation in a community setting where many people come together to meditate, which can feel more comfortable than doing it alone. There are many such centers in most metropolitan areas.
Barbor, Cary (2001). The science of meditation. Psychology Today. Retrieved June 6,
2012, from http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200105/the-science
Taylor, E. (1997). Introduction. In Donovan S. & Murphy, M., The physical and
psychological effects of meditation: A review of contemporary research (pp. 1-
23). Petaluma, CA: Institute of Noetic Science.